TV Offerings Are Hotter Than Usual This Summer
ROBERT SIEGEL, BYLINE: This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Robert Siegel.
MELISSA BLOCK, BYLINE: And I'm Melissa Block. Instead of taking their usual summer vacation, the TV networks are working to get your attention this summer. They're hoping to lure your eyes away from cable channels and online shows. To talk about some of the hot summer programming that will be on the schedule, I'm joined now by NPR TV critic Eric Deggans. And Eric, summer is usually when the networks slow down, but not this year. What's going on?
ERIC DEGGANS, BYLINE: Well, once upon a time, broadcasters went into reruns during the summer because people don't spend as much time indoors. But cable channels took advantage of the networks' inattention, and they built up some strong series. So the networks now realize they have to air series that are just as good as anything they would show anytime during the year.
BLOCK: And what's the networks' strategy? Is there a typical kind of show that we're going to see the summer?
DEGGANS: Well, several networks have really big-ticket series coming. NBC, for example, has John Malkovich playing the legendary pirate Blackbeard on an adventure drama called "Crossbones." Now, we've got a clip here where he threatens a doctor to keeping other man alive that they're holding captive.
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "CROSSBONES")
JOHN MALKOVICH: (As Blackbeard) If Mr. Nightingale dies, I'm afraid death is what you'll be pleading for. And it is exactly what you will not be granted. Not all those unflattering legends about me are untrue.
DEGGANS: Now, I'm still trying to figure out what exactly his accent is there. But...
BLOCK: I love that accent. That's awesome.
DEGGANS: (Laughing) Isn't it great? So - but it's an interesting story, and it's got really high production values. This is the kind of show that they might have made a miniseries in November or February sweeps maybe years ago.
BLOCK: OK so this is the salvo from the networks. How has cable responded to it?
DEGGANS: Well, cable has lots of big returning series coming in the middle of summer, like Showtime's "Masters Of Sex" and HBO's "True Blood" and FX's "The Bridge." But I am really intrigued by some of these new shows that are coming to cable from people that you don't normally see making television. Now, rapper 50 Cent has helped create a new drama for Stars called "Power," about a drug lord who hopes to turn his illegal empire into a legitimate business. It's kind of like "The Godfather" with a hip-hop soundtrack. And it's in another attempt by Stars to get in on this premium-TV-cable-drama game that's dominated by Showtime and HBO right now.
BLOCK: All right, Eric. Well, help a viewer out here. What are the shows that you would say we really shouldn't miss the summer?
DEGGANS: Well, on Sunday, AMC is trying something really interesting. They are going to try to make high drama out of building a computer.
DEGGANS: It's a fictionalized drama about the creation of an IBM clone type machines called "Halt And Catch Fire." Now, we've got a scene here where a hot-shot salesman named Joe MacMillan tries to convince an engineer to help him rip off IBM by quoting a paper he once wrote right back at him.
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "HALT AND CATCH FIRE")
LEE PACE: (As Joe MacMillan) This puts the future squarely in the hands of those who know computers, not for what they are, but for everything they have the potential to be. You know who said that?
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As Character) No. No, I don't.
PACE: (As Joe MacMillan) You did. Computers aren't the thing. They're aren't the thing. They're the thing that gets us to the thing.
DEGGANS: Now, who knew building a computer like a Dell could be so suspenseful?
BLOCK: Who knew? Well, Eric, we have not talked about the online arena. The Netflix series "Orange Is The New Black" will be starting its second season on June 6. You've been looking at previews. What are we going to see, and are there other shows that you're going to be looking out for?
DEGGANS: Well, "Orange Is The New Black" is probably the best-known online show coming. And like the first season, we're going to see 13 episodes come for lots of binge viewing. And we have an extra character played by character actress Lorraine Toussaint, this wonderful, manipulative woman who comes to the prison and tries to organize the black inmates there into a new power structure. And we've also got a great new series on Hulu from "Saturday Night Live" alum Casey Wilson called "The Hotwives Of Orlando." That's a satire of some of those "Real Housewives" series. So that's going to be lots of fun in mid-July.
BLOCK: Eric, thanks for giving us even more reasons to stay on the couch the summer. Appreciate it.
DEGGANS: Happy to talk to you.
BLOCK: That's NPR TV critic Eric Deggans.
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